What Does It Take To Truly Live A Minimalist Lifestyle?
by Crystal Wan Ying. |
Minimalism seems to be taking the world by a storm, especially when we live in an era where space is getting scarcer, our pockets tighter, and the cost of living higher. It may not be a lifestyle for everyone, but many want to have less, spend less, do less, and need less.
But, to live in a minimalist lifestyle doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make a dramatic leap in giving away everything you own and live in a room with just a mattress and a phone. A minimalist lifestyle for me is essentially living with intention and buying with intention. As such, the things you do own or is within your house all have some form of purpose. Excess possessions often serve as distractions from things that matter the most.
Minimalism doesn’t require everyone to have to downsize or live in tiny houses. It is more a concept, where living with fewer things ensures that you focus on living with more heart and joy, where you can focus on the things that truly bring good values into your life.
I mean, how many of us own twenty dresses, but keep wearing that ratty old tee shirt that makes us feel far more comfortable?
I won’t call myself a complete minimalist. I still do own at least eighty-odd books, and three pairs of shoes. But here’s the difference – everything I own is something that adds value to my life, and I use them all on a rotation basis. I do not have a stack of plates that I only take out once a year for entertaining guests. My guests use the same plates as I do! And if I entertain more guests then I have plates for? I am unafraid to ask if they’re okay with bringing their own or just borrow plates from someone else who has them.
So in essence, I guess minimalism to me, is about being honest with one’s self. Because let’s get real, do you really need everything you own right now? Living minimally means you don’t need to spend money on things you don’t need, which then allows that money to be spent on things like experiences instead. The very first thing that will help actually, is having the correct mindset and intention. In order to do so, I keep a few things in mind. Pick ONE room, or even one section of the room I’d like to start with and go through everything in that room one by one with the following in mind:
Evaluate things in your house: have you thought/used it in the last 3 months? Do you see a need for it in the next 3 months?
Honestly, if the item in question hasn’t even crossed your mind in the last three months, you likely won’t be thinking about it, or need it at all. Sentimental factors are a huge reason why many people hoard things, but think about it this way – a cup is meant to be used as a vessel for liquid, not to collect dust on a shelf. Instead of wasting the space and effort needed to dust the item left for decoration (which you’ve forgotten about, probably), why don’t you give it to someone else who may likely make far better use of it? There are many ‘Buy Nothing Project’ groups on Facebook you could join, where someone else would happily take your sentimental item off your hands and put it to good use.
If you haven’t used or needed to use an object in the last three months or can think of an occasion where you may need to use it in the next three months, you’ll unlikely be using it often. And if there comes a situation where you do need to use it, there is always an option of borrowing it from someone since it is an item rarely used.
Ask yourself if you need something or do you want it and if it benefits you.
Having a budget has also greatly helped me with this. When you’re down to the last hundred ringgit you have to spend that month, it greatly brings into contrast whether something is a need or a want. When living with intention, many of our ‘wants’ are only temporary. They bring a fleeting joy, but they aren’t necessarily something that will be useful in the long term. Of course, the terms ‘need’ and ‘want’ differ for everyone (cake is a need for me, for example), but being able to identify your own personal definitions would make it far easier to be able to decide if you should or should not buy something. ‘Needs’ are usually something that plays a part, and has a purpose within the household, whereas a ‘want’ often just takes up unnecessary space, and isn’t even touched or used much.
Focus on how much joy something brings you.
Certain things fall in the grey area between need and want. See, living minimally doesn’t mean you need to cut out everything that you enjoy in life. But how long does that enjoyment last? Say, for example, you buy a dress (and you already have perhaps five in your wardrobe at home). The fleeting moment in which you purchase the dress, and perhaps the first time you wear it, would be a moment of joy. But after that brief few seconds to a few hours, what would happen to it? Are you the type to re-wear the dress again? Or do you look elsewhere for a newer dress to fulfil that sense of joy? If you’re the kind who finds joy each time you re-wear the same dress, then yes, the purchase is worth it. But if not, perhaps you may want to reevaluate what is truly bringing you joy – the item, or the act of buying it? Everything purchased should again, have a purpose in your life, and as such enrich and bring joy to it.
One of the benefits I find coming from leading such a lifestyle is that there is significantly less clutter at home. Fewer things = less mess. And when there’s less mess, you’ll find it far easier to sort through your thoughts and have a clearer mindset. If you’ve never heard of KonMari, she has a beautiful method that helps with the decluttering and organizing, and once you’ve gotten everything organized, it’s far clearer to see if you have duplicates of anything (do you need 3 pairs of sports shoes? Or the five different whisks you have in your kitchen?).
In the end, I think what it takes to live a truly minimalist lifestyle is to be honest and hard on yourself if you truly want to declutter your living space (and your life). It is never easy saying goodbye, be it to someone or something, but if it benefits you or someone else in the long run, perhaps it is simply the better choice?
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